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Elon Musk Implements Multiple Changes To Twitter

April 1st marked the official deadline for verified Twitter users to pay for Twitter Blue in order to keep their blue check mark verification with their account. 

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Many celebrities and news organizations have vowed to not pay for Twitter Blue to maintain their verification. While many legacy verification accounts still have their check marks, the system has begun removing them from accounts without a subscription to the paid service. 

LeBron James, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The White House are just a handful of verified accounts that have made public statements about their refusal to pay for the service; The New York Times has since lost its checkmark. 

No one working for Twitter had planned for a mass deletion of verifications, so removing the legacy verifications may take a while, as employees need to remove each one manually. 

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In Twitter’s new “For You” section, the platform has updated the way it ranks content within the section. Developers have begun identifying certain accounts as Democrat or Republican as a means of teaching whether algorithm changes were affecting one group disproportionately over another. 

Musk’s own Twitter account has its own special type of coding that many users have reported making it so his tweets are more widely viewed by users on the platform. 

Apart from these changes, many users have also noticed that Twitter is making content with certain words harder to see, such as “trans” or “transgender,” with users reporting that when tweets containing those words are sent to a user via direct message, the message won’t preview the tweet in the new messages section. 

This type of “shadow banning” for certain words are causing users to speak out against the changes, stating they’ve been put in place to limit just how much free speech users are actually allowed to have on the platform. 

ipad

Apple Gearing Up For ‘Major iPad Pro Revamp’ For 2024

According to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman’s recent report in the latest edition of his Power On newsletter, Apple is preparing for a “major iPad Pro revamp” for next year after years of minor revisions and adjustments to the company’s tablet sector. 

Gurman reported that 2024 will be a “light year” for the new iPad lineup, while this year will likely see no major updates for the iPad Pro, as well as the entry-level iPad, iPad mini, and the iPad Air. 

In 2024, however, Gurman reports that Apple “is readying a major revamp for the iPad Pro” specifically that will likely debut in the spring. Gurman is expecting an updated design to the tablet, as well as display upgrades involving an OLED display for the first time. 

“I don’t see any major updates coming in 2023 to the entry-level models, the iPad mini or the Air. The iPad Pro for sure isn’t getting anything of note this year. Instead, look for a major iPad Pro revamp next spring, complete with an updated design and OLED screens for the first time.”

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Apple is likely going to focus on upgraded releases of their other popular devices, such as the iPhone and various Macbook lineups, within this year and leave the major iPad upgrades to next year. 

Other reports have indicated that the newest upgrade to the iPad Pro could use a glass backing instead of the current aluminum unibody design. 

Glass backing to the iPad would be in line with the current line of iPhones that also have a glass backing design. MagSafe charging similar to current iPhone models will also likely be implemented in the new design. 

Tech Analyst Ross Youngalso recently reported that the first iPad Pro with an OLED display is on track to be released in 2024 as well as an upgraded Macbook Air model with the same display. 

It’s unclear whether or not Apple will also update the size options for the iPad Pro, but there have been reports that the company is considering a potential 14 inch display, as well as a potential whopping 16 inch display option. 

Additional tech leaks are likely to occur between now and the anticipated spring 2024 launch time, for now, however, the tech blogs and experts are anxiously awaiting what new information will be revealed regarding the future of the iPad, and Apple as a whole. 

med flight

Jeremy Renner Out Of Surgery And In ICU Following Snow Plow Accident 

Jeremy Renner, actor most recently recognizable from his role as Hawkeye in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is now out of surgery and has been admitted into the intensive care unit following a snow plowing accident on New Year’s Day. 

Initially reported by Variety, Renner is confirmed to have suffered from blunt force trauma and orthopedic injuries following the accident, and is currently in “critical but stable” condition. 

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“Jeremy’s family would like to express their gratitude to the incredible doctors and nurses looking after him, Truckee Meadows Fire and Rescue, Washoe County Sheriff, Reno City Mayor Hillary Schieve, and the Carano and Murdock families,” Renner’s spokesperson said in a statement.

“They are also tremendously overwhelmed and appreciative of the outpouring of love and support from his fans.”

The accident occurred near Reno, Nevada. Renner’s representative initially confirmed the news of the accident and shared some positive words regarding the actor’s current team taking care of him through this time of recovery. 

“We can confirm Jeremy is in critical but stable condition with injuries suffered after experiencing a weather related accident while plowing snow earlier today. His family is with him and he is receiving excellent care.”

Around 9 am PT on Sunday, January 1st, Washoe County Sheriff’s Office and officers responded to a “traumatic” injury near Mount Rose Highway in Reno, Nevada. 

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Representatives and spokesmen stated that “upon arrival, Deputies coordinated with Truckee Meadows Fire Protection District and REMSA Health to arrange for medical transport of Mr. Jeremy Renner via care flight to a local area hospital. Mr. Renner was the only involved party in the incident.”

The sheriff’s Major Accident Investigation Team is “currently looking into the circumstances of the incident,” and no further details were given at this time. 

Renner’s home is located in Washoe County, where he’s owned property for many years. Weather reports in the area showed the county enduring a massive snowstorm on New Year’s Eve, with over 31,000 people losing power. 

Renner’s Avengers co-star Mark Ruffalo took to social media to ask fans to send their best wishes to Renner and his family during this time. 

“Prayers up for our brother @jeremyrenner on a full and speedy recovery. Please send healing goodness his way,” Ruffalo posted on his Instagram story alongside reports of the accident when the news initially broke.

Mortgage

US Housing Market Is Slowing Down, Inventory Is High And Prices Are Lowering

The US housing market has been on quite the roller coaster ride since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, experts are saying that the housing market may not be crashing, but it’s definitely slowing down in terms of sales, mortgage rates, and inventory.

Covid

China Slowly Recovering From Worst Surge Of Covid-19 Since Pandemic’s Start 

The capital city of Beijing, China took a step towards Covid-19 recovery by allowing restaurants to resume in-store dining this week, after a hiatus of nearly a month. Most other businesses are also able to restore in-person operations. 

Shanghai, which has been locked down for nearly two months, also announced reopening plans for their restaurants and in-person businesses, as well as outdoor activities like camping and local parks. 

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The traffic rates in both major metropolitan areas increased this week after weeks of nearly no congestion due to lockdown procedures. Virus testing in both cities has relaxed from every two days to every three days as well. 

Surges of Omicron cases have been spiking throughout China since March, prompting the nation to reinstate many of their “dynamic zero-Covid” policies. The nationwide daily Covid case cound has now fallen to well below 50, according to official data.

“The unsynchronized lockdowns and reopenings across major cities suggest that China’s ongoing post-lockdown growth recovery should be less steep than the V-shaped one in spring 2020.”

“Our high-frequency trackers suggest that barring another severe Covid resurgence and related lockdowns, mobility, construction and ports operation could recover to pre-lockdown levels in around one month,” said Goldman Sachs China Economist Lisheng Wang in a report.

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Local authorities have been enforcing strict travel bans and stay-home orders to control the spread of the virus, a method they’ve been using since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. 

The report from Goldman Sachs also stated that “businesses in the service sector that involve close human contact would find it challenging to achieve a full recovery any time soon.”

The Dragon Boat Festival holiday weekend in China indicated to the government that overall economic recovery will likely be slow. Spending on domestic tourism during the holiday dropped 12.2% when compared to last year. 

The Purchasing Managers’ Index in China showed continuous declines in business plans for hiring new employees as well due to a lack of income overall. 

Even with Beijing and Shanghai reopening, many specific apartment complexes and neighborhoods could remain closed off due to contact with Covid cases. 

NATO Russian Flags

NATO Chief Says Ukraine Can Win War With Russia After Finland And Sweden Military Alliance

Ukrainian forces have been able to push back the Russian military around Kharkiv as a part of their counter offense that has caused Russian troops to withdraw from the nation’s second-largest city. 

NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg made a statement on Sunday stating that “Ukraine can win this war” following the news that Finland was applying to join the military alliance. This is a historic move, as Finland traditionally remains neutral. 

Sweden’s President Sauli Niinisto said that “joining the military alliance will maximize Finland’s security after Russia’s unprecedented invasion of Ukraine in February.” 

Sweden is also expected to apply to join NATO, which is likely going to make tensions worse with Russia, who warned last week that it would be taking “retaliatory steps” should Finland join the military alliance. 

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Additionally, Ukraine President Volodymyr Selenskyy took to Twitter to discuss his conversations with International Monetary Fund Director Kristalina Georgieva about receiving financial support for his country. 

Zelenskyy wrote that he and Georgieva “discussed the need for financial support for the Ukrainian economy,” and that they were looking forward to the “further fruitful joint work in maintaining financial stability of Ukraine.” 

Back in April Zelenskyy and Georgieva discussed Ukraine’s economic stability and preparations for post-war reconstruction. 

In a reply to a tweet from Zelenskyy in April, Georgieva said that “continued economic support by Ukraine’s partners is essential to lay the foundations for rebuilding a modern competitive Ukraine.”

In the US, the Lockheed Martin Corporation, one of the nation’s biggest security and aerospace companies, was awarded two contracts worth $309 million for its Javelin missiles. These missiles are anti tank weapons that have helped Ukraine in their fight against Russian invaders. 

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Demand for these missiles has remained high throughout the entire war, but have seen an increase in demand as conditions worsen in Ukraine. The missiles have so far been used to stop Russian tanks from advancing on the capital.

The US has sent more than 5,500 Javelin systems to Ukraine. State Department Counselor Derek Chollet will be leading a delegation group to Moldova, Georgia, and the United Kingdom as a means of furthering their collaborative efforts to help Ukraine. 

Moldova is one of the most vulnerable countries when it comes to the war with Russia. Chollet is planning to meet with government officials in the nation to “reinforce US support for Moldova’s democracy, prosperity, and security.” 

“Chollet will then head to Georgia, where he will meet with government, opposition, and civil society representatives for discussions on Russia’s continuing occupation of parts of Georgia, on the Kremlin’s brutal war against Ukraine, and on how to advance the people of Georgia’s aspirations for a democratic, peaceful, prosperous, and Euro-Atlantic future,” according to the state department.

Chollet will then travel to the UK to discuss the countries’ response to the war in Ukraine and other global security concerns.

Ukraine Conflict

Ukraine Updates: Mariupol Residents Evacuating, Resolution Could Mean US Intervention 

This Monday the residents of Mariupol, Ukraine began a mass evacuation with Ukrainian authorities assisting thousands of more residents escape the city that once held almost 500,000 citizens. 

Mayoral adviser Petro Andryushchenko told the media that buses were heading toward Zaporizhzhia, which is 140 miles west of Mariupol. Individuals who own cars are being encouraged to evacuate themselves as quickly as possible. 

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“We hope that thousands of our Mariupol residents … will get to Zaporizhzhia tonight or tomorrow morning,” Andryushchenko said Monday.

The Ukraine military said “civilians are already arriving in Zaporizhzhia [a city of about 750,000 people] and are being provided hot meals, physical and psychological examinations and medicines.”

“All evacuees will receive a calm refuge. Finally, these people will be able to feel safe.”

According to some estimates from authorities, about 100,000 people might still be trapped in the port city of Mariupol, with little access to food, water, and utilities. Several hundred of them are thought to be at a sprawling steel plant that is the last major holdout in the Russian-occupied city. 

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More than 100 citizens were evacuated from the Azovstal plant on Sunday before Russian shelling forced a temporary halt to the evacuation efforts. The Russian military claims that 69 individuals chose to evacuate while 57 others asked to stay under Russian control. 

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told media stations that civilians who remain in the plant were likely afraid that the buses they boarded would be taken to Russia, but he has UN assurances that citizens would be going to Ukraine-controlled areas. 

Representative Adam Kinzinger is planning on introducing a joint resolution that would authorize President Joe Biden to use US military forces in Ukraine if Russia uses chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons. 

“The legislation of the use of force would be used to protect the national security interests of the United States with respect to Ukraine and assist in defending and restoring the territorial integrity of Ukraine.” 

“The authority would terminate when the territorial integrity of Ukraine has been restored,” according to the resolution.

“Putin must be stopped. Accordingly, the commander in chief of the world’s greatest military should have the authority and means to take the necessary actions to do so,” Kinzinger said.

Russia And Ukraine Conflict Update: Ukraine Rejects Moscow’s Offer Of Safe Housing For Citizens

Moscow announced this week that they would provide corridors for residents of Ukraine’s two main cities if they decided to flee to Russia or Belarus; a move that Ukraine called an “immoral stunt to exploit the suffering under Russian bombardment.” 

Russian and Ukrainian delegations assembled for a third round of talks when the announcement was made. The two previous rounds of delegation didn’t offer many solutions for citizens besides a pledge to open up routes for humanitarian access. 

“In a few minutes, we will start talking to representatives of a country that seriously believes large-scale violence against civilians is an argument. Prove that this is not the case,” Ukrainian negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak said.

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A spokesperson for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called the move “completely immoral, Russia is trying to use people’s suffering to create a television picture. They are citizens of Ukraine, they should have the right to evacuate to the territory of Ukraine.”

The United Nations refugee agency stated that more than 1.7 million Ukrainians have now fled their home country to seek safe housing in Central Europe. A multitude of international sanctions has also isolated Russia from global commerce. 

Russia is the world’s biggest exporter of oil and gas. Prices of oil spiked above $139 a barrel this Monday, the closest the nation has come in nearly 14 years to reaching the all-time high of $147. Investment banks say that the prices could even approach $200 this year is Russian supply continues to dwindle. 

The general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces say that Russian forces “were beginning to accumulate resources for the storming of Kyiv,” which is a city of more than 3 million people. So far 2,000 citizens have been evacuated from Irpin, a suburb in Kyiv that has been enduring heavy attacks. 

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In a speech to the nation late on Sunday, Zelenskiy described one family “cut down as they tried to escape Irpin on Sunday, Russians responsible for such atrocities will never be forgiven. For you there will be no peaceful place on this earth, except for the grave.”

Ukraine also said on Monday its forces had “retaken control of the town of Chuhuiv in the northeast, a site of heavy fighting for days, and of the strategic Mykolayiv airport in the south.”

The United Nations has called for safe passage for all people who are cut off from lifesaving aid across Ukraine. One psychiatric hospital near Kyiv has been running out of water and medicine with 670 patients trapped inside. The WHO said at least 6 people have been confirmed killed within nine attacks on health care facilities since the start of the conflict. 

Moscow has acknowledged that nearly 500 of their soldiers have been killed, but Western countries and Ukraine said that number is actually likely to be in the thousands. Russian authorities, however, have imposed a near total media blackout on non-official information, making it nearly impossible to verify the actual amount of deaths. 

Evacuation efforts have been stalled in multiple areas around Ukraine due to safety concerns, but ideally leaders will be able to continue to provide aid and refuge through the UN.

Ukraine Flags

Ukraine Pushing For Cease-Fire In Talks With Russia As Fighting Continues 

Russian and Ukrainian officials met on Monday as violence continues around the cities involved in the conflict. Ukraine is pushing for an immediate cease-fire and the withdrawal of Russian troops from the country ahead of the talks.

Kyiv is currently coming under attack from heavy Russian shelling. The city has been resistant to invasion with the help of military assistance from countries across the world and global sanction efforts. In addition to the violence, the Russian military has also stated that its nuclear deterrent forces have been put on high alert after Putin’s orders. 

Russian forces are now being accused of carrying out massive shelling and attack operations inside of Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, after graphic videos were posted to social media showing the assault and its devastating aftermath. 

United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said that 102 civilians, including seven children, were killed across Ukraine since Thursday, noting that those figures were likely an underrepresentation of the national death toll. 

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More than half a million of Ukraine’s 44 million citizens have fled the country according to the head of the U.N. refugee agency. Others are being forced to seek shelter inside metro stations and parking garages while missile strikes and gunfire take over the cities. 

A strict 39-hour curfew was in effect in Kyiv this weekend and was lifted this Monday after Russian troops invaded. Residents were able to go out and replenish essential supplies while dodging the violence. 

There’s been a concentrated effort to make Putin pay for the invasion economically as well. Sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies have greatly impacted Russia’s economy. Russia’s central bank kept the stock market closed and raised its interest rate to 20 percent from 9.5 percent in an attempt to improve the plummeting national currency. 

The United States has also announced that it would be expanding sanctions on Russia’s central bank, making it so Americans will be blocked from doing any business with it, and freeze any assets the banks may hold in the U.S.. 

“Russia’s economic reality has changed due to the heavy sanctions, but they were prepared and able to handle the damage,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated. 

Russia has also closed its airspace to airlines from the European Union and several other countries as a means of retaliation for the current ban on travel from Russian planes over its airspace. 

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has stated that he doubted the talks with Russia would actually produce results, but Ukraine’s forces have slowed Russia’s advance and they still hold the capital, Kyiv, and Kharkiv. 

“The bulk of Putin’s ground forces remain more than 30 km [18 miles] to the north of Kyiv. Logistical failures and staunch Ukrainian resistance continue to frustrate the Russian advance,” Britain’s Ministry of Defense said in a post on Twitter Monday morning.

“With the operation moving slower than anticipated, Russia was bringing in more troops, weapons and equipment. They underestimated the resistance they were going to meet and that’s why they’re making less progress,” according to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. 

“Armed with government-issued machine guns, homemade Molotov cocktails and shovels to build barricades, civilians have helped to reinforce their army’s desperate but for now effective resistance. They will soon be joined by prisoners with combat experience who will now be released,” Zelenskyy stated. 

Zelenskyy has stated that Putin is intending to remove Ukraine’s pro-Western government to potentially replace it with a Moscow-friendly regime. Putin also recently issued a directive to increase the readiness of Russia’s nuclear deterrent forces. Russia has thousands of nuclear warheads in its arsenal. 

“The move is reckless and dangerous. There’s no reason for that. NATO is no threat to Russia. Although NATO moved to increase its presence in Eastern Europe in the wake of the Ukraine invasion, it had no intention of becoming involved in the conflict itself. We have a responsibility to make sure that this doesn’t spiral out of control. That will be extremely dangerous,” Stolenberg stated.

L.A. County Reports Rise In Covid-19 Cases, 99% Of Which Are Among The Unvaccinated 

Los Angeles County health officials reported that Monday marked the fourth consecutive day in which 1,000 new Covid-19 cases have emerged. The officials also claimed that these cases were all appearing among unvaccinated individuals almost exclusively. 

The Department of Public Health for LA County reported 1,059 new cases this Monday. Last Friday they reported 1,044 cases, followed by 1,069 on Saturday, and 1,113 more on Sunday. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer released a statement this week on the increase in cases. 

“Over 99% of the COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths we are seeing are among unvaccinated individuals.”

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These new cases are worrying many experts due to the fact that before this point, the county was doing relatively well in their fight against Covid-19. The week before June 26th, LA county reported an average of less than 250 new cases a day, consecutively. That number has now more than tripled in just two short weeks.

State data has shown that 376 patients had to be hospitalized due to their symptoms; the highest number of hospitalized Covid-19 patients the county has seen since May. Reported deaths still remain low, however, health officials noted that it can take weeks for an increase in viral transmission to reflect in the number of fatalities. 

Areas in LA county where the percentage of fully vaccinated people is high continue to have lower rates of new Covid-19 cases. Throughout the past week the entire state of California has reported an average of 2,100 new cases a day; this is a 124% rise when compared to two weeks ago. 

More than 59% of Californians have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, while millions have still neglected to receive their vaccine; either because they’re too young, or have chosen not to get it. 

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Health experts are now labelling the Covid-19 crisis as a “tale of two pandemics,” one in which vaccinated people can enjoy a higher degree of protection, while unvaccinated individuals remain vulnerable and exposed. Dr. Tomás Aragón, state public health officer and director of the California Department of Public Health, recently gave a statement on the importance of getting vaccinated. 

“Although California’s vaccination rates are among the highest in the country, we must stay vigilant against COVID-19 and its variants. That means motivating the remaining Californians to get vaccinated, and encouraging our friends and families too.”

Ferrer added that “the work in front of us is to improve confidence in these vaccines among people who are not yet vaccinated, and we will try lots and lots of different strategies with all of our partners.”

“The most successful strategy to date is making sure that people are getting their information from other people that they trust, and working to build out those teams of folks that are in the neighborhoods that can be trusted and have good information remains one of the most important strategies. So we’ll continue to do that while we make sure that access remains as easy as possible,” she explained.